Tori Drinks The Denial Kool Aid: “What are you so bummed about?”
Dude, Where’s My Protective Shield?: “You. You just. You get all hostile with the haircuts. Really, scary, scary hostile with all the hair and cuts.
What? Me? I had skipped and tricked myself into believing that this salon trip would be different, calming even. I would enjoy, as ladies do, the frivolous girl talk and outdated issues of Women’s Weekly. I would appreciate my time in the swivel throne as a moment of lavish relaxation and pampering. I’d absorbed enough episodes of Real Housewives to get the general notion of “luxuriating”.
I arrived at the salon early, a request made by the stylist as she had “stuff to do” and needed my haircut to be “over yesterday”. An odd sense of humor, I thought, and ignored the signs that this beauty parlor foray was doomed before the shampoo. The hair tamer jerked my head by my chin. “Stop crossing your knees and look down,” she bossed. With my lanky legs tangled under chair and chin tucked promptly to my chest, I tried to remember the idyllic scenes of toasting champagne over eyebrow waxing and complimentary Botox injections for all luxuriators over the age of twenty-five. I was led by pinched elbow to the “blower”, a gigantic contraption meant to suck the
brains from one’s head excess moisture from one’s luscious locks. I sat bow-legged for fear of crossing at the knees. My eyes glazed over as minutes passed and the whorl of the Turbo Heat Dry Max 2000 lit fire to my ears. I was in waking sleep, a trance that let me so unfortunately flow back to memories of murderous haircuts past.
It was the Spring of 1993. My mother, an avid runner, loaded my six-year-old self into the minivan. We were headed for a special treat, she explained, and I spent the car ride counting red cars and dreaming of ice cream sundaes. We arrived at JC Penney and I allowed my trusting child heart to believe that a beautiful new dress might also be in my future. I was led by elbow to a mammoth chair at the department store salon. Perhaps they would bring the dresses to me? It was then my mother informed the disgruntled beautifier to chop it off. Chop it all off. Are they hemming my fancy dress? One hour, three nips of the earlobe, and mounds of fallen baby hair (R.I.P. Pig Tails) later, my mother’s evil plot revealed itself in the form of one pint-sized version of a man runner. My mother proudly looked on as hair inched from my lower back up, up, up to be buzzed with clippers around the ears. The sweeping bowl cut would increase my race speed by minutes and increase the likelihood of death by bullying by years.
The next year of growth was met with relentless torment from a big brother. There were months his incessant warnings of my soon-to-sprout wiener gave me nightmares. He always knew I was a boy, he charged, and now the world knew, too. My mother, surely seeing the error of her ways, allowed me to have my ears pierced. I can only imagine this was to put the hidden gender rumors to rest, or at the very least distract the public from my hair with precious, girly earrings.
My weeping mop of hair was left alone for several years. Eventually it perked up, realized that life was not, in fact, over, and went on to do great things like french braids and ballerina buns. With the fatal brush so far behind me, I arrived at a point where going to the salon with my mom didn’t make me want to vomit. It sounded almost fun, even.
It was the Summer of 1999. I was a soon-to-be 8th Grader which is basically a soon-to-be highschooler which basically meant that I was a bonafied woman. A carefree Mother-Daughter Day led us to the House de Beauty to revel in all things stylish and feminine. My mother was to get her hair colored. I could have “anything I wanted”. The stylist, a sassy man with startling white teeth took this to mean that he could “work his magic” with little regard to the tab. I would need my eyebrows done, my hair color and cut done, my mom’s credit card maximum spending allotment done. As a clueless tomboy type, done implied swift and painless beauty; so I settled into the chair with a complimentary soda and let Sir SassySnip get to the done part of it all.
Done eyebrows include scalding hot wax and strips of cloth and rippage of the cloth and wax and chunks of fresh eyebrow flesh. Through the crystal blue tint of an icepack to the forehead, I caught a glimpse of done hair as well. It involved enough foil to provide the city with quality television picture and two baked potatoes per household. In the process of getting done I smelled chemicals akin to those used in smelly indoor pools at cheap hotels. This done and done-r hair also left my ears, neck, and head region feeling mostly bare. With a delighted giggled and extra-sassy “Voila!”, I was presented to my new self in the mirror. I think I cried for days.
The “sophisticated” style, my mother tried to comfort me, looked like a hip Katie Couric. Jagged layers spiked across the crown of my head. My hair ceased to exist beyond my quivering jaw line. Small, sharp bangs razored across my forehead. This same forehead puffed and blistered with a fiery rash where prepubescent fuzz used to innocently play. I returned to school, mistaken for the frumpy new librarian with crazy eyebrow acne.
The heater snapped off. I tried to shake the horror from my face as I made the treacherous walk to the chair of hair demise. The stylist asked what I wanted. I mumbled incoherently, trembling mutterings of “I hate it here” and “Sweet Jesus, not the neck”. Eventually I made it clear enough that I wanted just a tiny trim. No fancy scissor art. Like a gentle tap of the strands. An angel blowing split ends from my tips like the soft shooing of a baby dandelion. I tensed up, waiting for a seizure worthy of Steel Magnolias and tried to muffle the knee-jerk flinching as she pulled a comb and scissor set from the murky, blue depths of the sanitizer jar.
I staggered through the door, gripping the kitchen table for stability. The Mister, having anxiously awaited my return from the trenches, jumped to full alert. I begged for a snow cap and some duct tape. He checked for blood and other signs of torture. He tried to disguise the concerned frown on his face. I tried to pinpoint where I’d seen this particular brand of awful now residing atop my head. Yes, that’s it. The goggle-wearing fool on Disney’s Imagination Movers. At least my son would appreciate this triangle-shaped mess as we daily jump! shout! and figure things out! At all of noon-thirty, I grabbed a beer. We toasted to headbands and hats, to knowing better but doing stupid all the same.